It figures, but history shows us yet another way Brooklyn was cool, like, forever–though this particular example is a bit more literal. A classic New York City heatwave was just enough to turn up the Brooklyn ingenuity in a junior engineer named Willis Carrier, who devised a system of fans, ducts, heaters, and perforated pipes that became the world’s first air conditioner. The problem: blistering temperatures that were literally melting the equipment in a Williamsburg printing house. The solution was one that had eluded centuries of inventors through sweltering summers. The system was installed in the summer of 1902, according to the New York Times, and Carrier went on to found Carrier Corporation. He had hit on the idea while walking in the fog.
Jacob Ruppert’s Knickerbocker Beer, 1912, via Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division
If you spent the first weekend of October hoisting lager and Oomph-ing it up for Oktoberfest, then you joined a long and proud tradition of German beer production and consumption in New York City. In fact, New York’s German-owned breweries were once the largest beer-making operations in the country, and the brewers themselves grew into regional and national power-players, transforming Major League Baseball, holding elected office, and, perhaps most importantly, sponsoring goat beauty pageants in Central Park. While brewing flourished in both Manhattan and Brooklyn throughout the 19th century, the city’s largest breweries were clustered in Yorkville. In fact, much of the neighborhood’s storied German cultural history can be traced to the rise of brewing in the area, and the German-language shops, cultural institutions and social halls that sprang up to cater to the brewery workers.
Photo via Bronx Brewery
Tours of breweries in NYC are nothing new. But if you’re looking to shake things up, consider taking a tour of Bronx breweries that takes place on a trolley and starts at one of the largest cemeteries in the city. This Saturday, Woodlawn Cemetery, in partnership with the Bronx Historical Society, is offering a trolley tour that delves into the history behind the borough’s beer-brewing legacy and takes guests into some of the Bronx’s newest breweries and beer halls.
Photo credit: Evan Joseph for Empire State Realty Trust.
The Empire State Building unveiled today the second phase of a freshly reimagined $165 million Observatory Experience. The new second-floor gallery treats visitors to a series of nine individual exhibits, taking them on a digitally enhanced, experiential journey from the building’s construction to its current iconic cultural status. The 10,000-square-foot gallery’s redesign was led by experience designer Thinc along with team members IDEO, Squint Opera, Beneville Studios, Diversified, Intersection, Kubik Maltbie, Otis Elevator Company and Tenguerian Model.
Map of the Western Canadian Fur Trade, ca. 1750-1759. The North American Fur Trade Began with French Merchants in Canada. Via NYPL Digital Collections
The fur trade has such deep roots in New York City that the official seal of the City of New York features not one but two beavers. Fur was not only one of the first commodities to flow through the port of New York, helping to shape that port into one of the most dynamic gateways the world has ever known, but also, the industry had a hand in building the cityscape as we know it. John Jacob Astor, the real estate tycoon whose New York holdings made him the richest man in America, began as an immigrant fur trader. Later, as millions of other immigrants made the city home, many would find their way into the fur trade, once a bustling part of New York’s sprawling garment industry. Today, as the nation’s fashion capital, New York City is the largest market for furs in the United States.
A new bill sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson could change that. Aimed at protecting animals from cruelty, the bill would ban the sale of new fur garments and accessories, but allow for the sale of used fur and new items made out of older repurposed furs. The measure has drawn impassioned criticism from a diverse set of opponents, particularly African American pastors who point out the cultural importance of furs within the black community, and Hasidic rabbis, who worry that wearing traditional fur hats would make Hassidic men vulnerable to hate crimes. And those in the fur industry fear the loss of livelihoods and skilled labor. After prompt pushback, Johnson said he plans to rework the bill to make it more fair to furriers. But given New York’s current debate around fur, we thought we’d take a look at the long history of the city’s fur trade.
Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York outside 54 Pearl Street on opening day. Taken from Broad Street facing east. 1907. From the archives at Fraunces Tavern Museum. Courtesy of the Fraunces Tavern Museum
Fraunces Tavern is breaking out the champagne this year to celebrate its 300th birthday. Called “the oldest standing structure in Manhattan,” the building you see today at the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets owes much to 20th-century reconstruction and restoration, but the site has a storied and stately past. In fact, any toasts delivered to mark the Tavern’s tri-centennial will have to stack up against George Washington’s farewell toast to his officers, delivered in the Tavern’s Long Room, on December 4, 1783.
Named for Samuel Fraunces, the patriot, spy, steward, and gourmand, who turned the old De Lancey Mansion at 54 Pearl Street into 18th century New York’s hottest watering hole, Fraunces Tavern connects New York’s proud immigrant history with its Dutch past, Revolutionary glory, maritime heritage, and continuous culinary prowess. Dive into the building’s unparalleled past and discover secrets and statesmen, murder and merriment – all served up alongside oysters as big as your face.
Picketing ILGWU members outside Macy’s department store urge shoppers not to buy Judy Bond blouses. Circa 1965. Courtesy Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives, Cornell University.
The Museum of the City of New York will kick off its new exhibit, “City of Workers, City of Struggle,” on May 1st, a date celebrated by workers around the world as May Day. The exhibit will explore how labor movements transformed New York and made it the most unionized large city in the United States. A robust public events calendar and moonlight movie series will add more exciting dimensions to this exploration of 200 years of labor politics in New York.
Jane’s Walk photo courtesy of MAS
Get ready to walk! The great urbanist Jane Jacobs advocated for livable, walkable cities, and the Municipal Art Society invites you to do just that during the first weekend in May. MAS’s 9th annual Jane’s Walk weekend, a three-day festival of free, public, volunteer-led walking tours, kicks off Friday, May 3rd. The Jane’s Walk festival is a global event honoring Jane Jacobs’ legacy of urban exploration, local history, and civic engagement. This year, Jane’s Walks will take place in 200 cities around the world, and New Yorkers will have nearly 300 walks to choose from!
“Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, half-length portrait, standing with statue of soldiers,” 1920, via, The Library of Congress
When the first Armory Show came to New York City in 1913, it marked the dawn of Modernism in America, displaying work by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp for the very first time. Not only did female art patrons provide 80 percent of the funding for the show, but since that time, women have continued to be the central champions of American modern and contemporary art. It was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller who founded MoMA; Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney the Whitney; Hilla von Rebay the Guggenheim; Aileen Osborn Webb the Museum of Art and Design; and Marcia Tucker the New Museum. Read on to meet the modern women who founded virtually all of New York City’s most prestigious modern and contemporary art museums.
Students from Camp Henry at the exhibit, courtesy of The Henry Street Settlement
In honor of its 125th anniversary, the Henry Street Settlement, the community hub and social services organization at 265 Henry Street, has mounted a new permanent exhibit in its historic 1830 landmarked headquarters. “The House on Henry Street” is a multi-media exhibit that highlights the legacy of the Settlement’s founder, Lillian Wald, and explores over a century of social activism, urban poverty, and public health on the Lower East Side through the lens of the Settlement’s own history. Incorporating archival photos, video and sound recordings, historic objects, and quotations from both settlement workers and clients, the exhibit distills over a century of history into a stunningly rich and deeply moving meditation on the vital importance of community-oriented social activism.